'Nuclear-free' Baltic region is 'no longer' possible if Finland, Sweden join NATO, Russia warns
Russia on Thursday warned it would reinforce the Baltic Sea region — and possibly with added nuclear deployments — should Finland and Sweden move to join NATO, The Washington Post and CNBC report.
Both Finland and Sweden have been reconsidering their status as nonmember NATO states in light of Russia's unprompted invasion of Ukraine. And Finland, for one, shares a border with Russia.
But a NATO expansion into Finland or Sweden would push Russia to strengthen its own forces so as to "balance" military power in the region, Russian Security Council Chair Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday, per the Post.
"If Sweden and Finland join NATO, the length of the land borders of the alliance with the Russian Federation will more than double," Medvedev wrote on Telegram. "Naturally, these boundaries will have to be strengthened."
Russia would have to "seriously strengthen the grouping of land forces and air defense, deploy significant naval forces in the waters of the Gulf of Finland. In this case, it will no longer be possible to talk about any nuclear-free status of the Baltic — the balance must be restored," Medvedev continued, noting Finland and Sweden's membership would give Moscow "more officially registered opponents," per CNBC.
Medvedev's comments arrive just one day after both Finland and Sweden said their decision on NATO membership would arrive within a few weeks.
Notably, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas dismissed Russia's threat as odd, considering Moscow has already positioned nuclear weapons in the Baltic region, he said, per CNBC.
"The current Russian threats look quite strange, when we know that, even without the present security situation, they keep the weapon 100 km from Lithuania's border," the defense minister reportedly said. "They use it as a threat."